Freckleface Strawberry, or, Finding Diversity in Unusual Places

Finding diversity in early readers, particularly when it comes to popular, commercially-successful series, can unfortunately be a real struggle for many teachers, librarians and caregivers. Books featuring trains, dinosaurs, aliens, superheroes and animals are a dime a dozen, but finding stories that reflect the diversity of our communities can be challenging.

I discovered a great list of diverse early readers over at the fantastic blog What We Do All Day, and one title that really stood out to me was Freckleface Strawberry : Backpacks by Julianne Moore (yes, the actress Julianne Moore!). On first glance, nothing about this story seems particularly diverse – two white, able-bodied, middle-class children engage in the typical elementary-school hijinks. Of course there’s a place for these kinds of stories, and I remember very clearly the teasing my cousins experienced as red-headed children! Still, I couldn’t immediately grasp why this title deserved a place on a diverse reading list.

The primary diverse element in Freckleface Strawberry is subtle and gentle, and it blends seamlessly into the rest of the story. One of the characters, the little boy who’s Freckleface Strawberry’s best friend, has two loving mothers. The two mums are briefly and simply mentioned, just as a mum and dad might be introduced in any other story. This warm, loving and accepting representation of a same-sex parents warms my heart.

Of course, as one might expect, not everyone approves of this “hidden agenda about homosexuality” as one reviewer put it,  complaining that the first grade is far too early to be introducing children to the reality of same-sex parenting.

Now, there are children in the preschools and elementary schools I visit who have two mums or two dads. It seems so heartbreaking to me that some people firmly believe that children in these warm, loving families should be denied the opportunity to see their families reflected in stories. If small children can have two mummies or two daddies, then small children can be introduced to these families in loving, positive ways.

So, kudos to Julianne Moore for introducing casual, everyday family diversity into her stories with sensitivity and positivity. I can only hope that children everywhere will one day be able to see themselves and their families positively represented in the books they love.

You Should Meet Mae Jemison

You Should Meet Mae Jemison

Blast off into space and get to know Mae Jemison—the first African-American woman to ever go to space—with this fascinating, nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read early reader, part of a new series of biographies about people “you should meet.” Meet Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut! Did you know before Mae was an astronaut, she […]

Review: Once Upon a Time in Japan by Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK)

Review: Once Upon a Time in Japan by Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK)

Hardcover, 120 pages Published November 3rd 2015 by Tuttle Publishing Source: Publisher Once Upon a Time in Japan is a wonderful collection of Japanese folk and fairy tales translated from Japanese by Roger Pulvers and Juliet Winters Carpenter. The book is wonderfully constructed with good quality paper and beautiful endpages that contain mini-illustrations that are found […]

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Hardcover, 256 pages Expected publication: September 22nd 2015 by Feiwel & Friends Source: Raincoast Books Books are oft touted as reflections of contemporary society: an assertion that is argued against just as much as it is argued for. Scholars say that deconstructing fictional characters often reveal the society and times they were created in and […]

Snapshot: Peep-lo by Jane Castle

Snapshot: Peep-lo by Jane Castle

Jill’s family had a summer cabin at the beach. Sometimes she waded in the water. Sometimes she played in the sand. Sometimes she hunted for treasure. So begins Peep-lo, written and illustrated by Jane Castle and published in 1959. Titled after the call of the mother plover that Jane encounters at the beach, this story narrates […]

Shel Silverstein: Poetry for Little Ears

Shel Silverstein: Poetry for Little Ears

I had meant to write a post about Silverstein for our poetry month a while ago, but life (literally) got in the way. Silverstein, who had never meant to write children’s literature and who actually never even liked children’s literature, is probably best known for his children’s literature, in particular the picturebook The Giving Tree. The Giving Tree (1964) […]

Clover's Luck (The Magical Animal Adoption Agency #1) by Kallie George: A Review

Clover's Luck (The Magical Animal Adoption Agency #1) by Kallie George: A Review

Hardcover, 144 pages Expected publication: February 3rd 2015 by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd Source: Author Clover’s Luck is the first in a new early reader series by Kallie George who is a local author and an alumnus of  the MACL program at UBC (that all the Book Warriors graduated from). I have read some of Kallie’s works […]